|Strange Nervous Laughter by Bridget McNulty|
|Tuesday, 27 November 2007 03:48|
I approached Strange Nervous Laughter somewhat apprehensively, a little worried that this chick lit novel, which is a self-proclaimed “book about love”, would simply trot out hackneyed cliché after trite stereotype. This, it emerged, was a completely unfounded fear.
The novel is no vapid ‘Bridget Jones’-hits-Bloemfontein or ‘Sex in the City’-meets-Sandton nonsense, but a whimsical tale of love unfolding in the humidity of a Durban summer. One has to read no further than the opening page, in which a cashier shatters All Gold bottles utilising her vocal chords alone, to realise that this tale is more than a little offbeat.
Strange Nervous Laughter deftly blends together elements of magical realism and black humour in a quirky brew of strange happenings and even stranger characters, whose romantic dalliances McNulty recounts with dry wit. The book follows the lives of six people as fall in love, out of love, and negotiate the volatile ground between the two states with varying levels of success. These six diverse characters include an undertaker with a clandestine toenail fetish, a girl whose happiness is directly proportional to her buoyancy (literally), and an endearing garbage man with a penchant for mending rubbish. McNulty relates their intertwined stories with a candour that is at once engaging and refreshing, and her evocation of the vibrant, multicultural city of Durban is rich in sensory detail. Indeed, the city comes to assume an identity of its own in the novel, which draws on many of Durban’s different aspects, from the gritty CBD to the immense Indian Ocean, in the process creating a text grounded in the geography of this coastal town.
And the title? Well, the strangeness of the novel is certainly counterbalanced by the laughter precipitated, which finally dispelled any nervousness I felt at dipping into the chick lit genre. Strange Nervous Laughter delighted me and is without doubt the best book I have read in which green food colouring plays a role! For more on that score you’ll have to read the novel!